Today I found myself commenting on a post regarding the reading of the number cards, or the pip cards, in a tarot pack, which reminded me of how I made myself unpopular a few years back when I resisted the Alejandro Jodorovsky and Philippe Camoin’s method.
‘No,’ I kept saying to whoever was willing to listen, ‘it’s not always about your father and your mother. And sure, the method of following the gazes of the court cards is a powerful thing, but it’s neither new, nor ground-breaking.’
Although I appreciate greatly this duo’s contribution to modern cartomancy, I find reducing everything to a culturally loaded opposition problematic. So I’ve said the following today, which I will repeat here, for the sake of spreading the good word.
In cunning-folk cartomancy you will not find gender metaphors associated with questions that are not about gender. In that sense the cunning-folk method is smarter than Camoin’s school that tends to reduce everything to the father/mother, male/female relation.
Although we all talk about the same shit, I find metaphors that describe universal oppositions in neutral terms to be much more on target than the ones that come with cultural baggage.
I like to think of the number cards as they emphasize breathing, such as inhaling and exhaling, distance, such as far and near, speed, such as slow or fast, and so on. Cups are slower than batons, coins are in your palm, while the tip of your sword is at arm length. I find these distinctions to be far more conducive to precision in readings than to blame it all on your father.
Just for fun, then, as these days I’m not interested in merely squaring off against other people’s methods of reading, I’ve decided to ask the cards themselves what they thought is the best method to apply when reading the pip cards.
I used three decks: A Marseille deck (Jean Noblet, 1650), a playing-card deck (original hand-stenciled Grimaud 1850), and a Lenormand deck that combines symbolic images with a traditional playing-card deck (Leipzig reproduction 1850/1984).
The Marseille says:
The best method is to think of the pips in terms of how they increase or decrease the tension that characterizes the preceding number’s action. If 2 crossed batons talk about oppositional action – for better or worse (something that the suit decides: if cups, grand, if swords, disaster) – 3 will increase that force. Going from 3 to 9 is pretty fast, so you’ll probably need to change your tempo and have a drink at some point. You can then start over. All is well.
The Grimaud says:
Be clever. Keep your house in check. You don’t need lots of shit to keep it simple. All is well.
The Lenormand says:
Can you know what a letter contains until you open it? Nope. So stop agonizing about the mystery of them 7 spades, and have faith that the news is good. Sometimes your heart’s desires manifest. All is even better.
CULTURE VS COMMON SENSE
I often say that the best method of reading the pip cards is to think of color and number progressions. A bad card ends your sequence, too much work (10 batons), too much stabbing (10 swords)? Too bad. Try again. Maybe next time you’ll get to see coins and cups flooding your life: 10 is better than 2. Indeed, as Shakespeare put it, ‘all’s well that ends well.’
I like the simplicity of this, as it avoids the trap of making too many assumptions, the trap of putting too many words into people’s mouths without their permission, and the trap of underestimating people’s basic intelligence.
By associating even numbers with women, because they supposedly look like women’s genitals, and assigning the odd numbers to men, because they supposedly carry the action forward, we come close to committing not only the gender difference fallacy, but also offending the ones who do not see themselves as part of the culturally determined loser group – read that as receptive, passive, open, wet, soft, slow, near, and so on. In other words, women.
The cartomantic folks of old knew how to stay away from muddling the discourse, and thus actually show some respect where respect is due.
For more cunning-folk inspired common sense, see also Enrique Enriquez’s works.
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